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The early childhood hand-print debate: One hundred languages or one thousand thousand hands?

From time to time early childhood social media groups explode with the great ‘child-as-stamping-implement hand print activity debate’. Educators either question or promote the production-line proliferation of children’s hand prints being embellished by adults and turned into ‘cute’ Santa sleighs, fish, flamingos and flowers.
Those defending or justifying their alterations of children’s arranged hand-prints suggest that no harm is done, especially if these ‘special-occasion’ activities are balanced out with quality open-ended arts experiences at other times. Justifications listed in defence of such activities include fine-motor benefits, colour recognition, the need for children to learn to follow instructions and even the suggestion that children learn creativity when replicating the adult template… (what the???). Some educators justify such products because they are considered to be cute mementos particularly valued by families. The suggestion that adult-directed processes should be minimised and that any defence of such practices suggests a lack of pedagogical reflection is often met with vehement denial.
During my two decades as an early childhood teacher, I never believed it was appropriate to draw on a child’s hand prints to turn it into an object or animal or to make or control children’s artistic expressions. I was taught to respect children’s work and to avoid writing on or altering it to suit adult agendas. However, I must come clean and confess that I did once made Christmas wreath patterns on calico wall-hangings using children’s hand prints?!

Article by Dr. Gai Lindsay


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